An arrest for alleged driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey has serious consequences, even before charges are filed or the case goes to trial. A driver could face license suspension and other administrative penalties that are largely separate from the court procedures for a DWI case. He or she also may face a charge of refusal to submit to chemical testing, and in some cases courts have held that simply not blowing hard enough into a breathalyzer machine could support a refusal conviction. Certain other criminal charges are common in alleged DWI cases, some of which could significantly increase the penalties that a prosecutor might seek in court.
Other Traffic Charges
Many, possibly most, DWI cases begin when a police officer pulls a driver over. An officer must have reasonable suspicion that a traffic offense has occurred for any evidence collected during the traffic stop to be admissible in court. If the officer can prove that he or she witnessed the driver violate a traffic law, such as by speeding, running a red light, or changing lanes without signaling, the stop is probably supported by reasonable suspicion. An officer also may pull over a car if it appeared that the driver was impaired based on how he or she was driving. Once the stop is underway, other evidence, like the “smell of alcohol” so often cited in court, may support a DWI charge.
Since a DWI arrest often originates with another alleged traffic violation, it stands to reason that DWI cases often involve other traffic charges. Many of these are minor offenses, like failing to use a turn signal or avoiding a traffic light, while others, such as driving with a suspended license, are relatively more serious. Even if a driver can prove that he or she was not drinking, he or she could face charges for careless or reckless driving.
The New Jersey DWI statute prohibits driving under the influence of both alcohol and illegal drugs. Chemical tests, which are required by state law once a driver has been arrested for suspected DWI, can detect the presence of some illegal drugs, but many drug charges in connection with a DWI are based on finding drugs in the suspect’s car.
While the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution generally requires police to obtain a warrant in order to search a person or his or her property, courts have identified many exceptions. The “plain-view rule” allows police to seize evidence that is visible, such as on a car seat, even if it is not specifically covered by a search warrant. The “automobile exception” allows police to search a vehicle if they reasonably believe it contains contraband. Much as the smell of alcohol often supports suspicion of DWI, a police officer’s nose comes into play here.
If a driver causes “bodily injury” or “serious bodily injury” to someone in an automobile accident, and he or she was driving “recklessly,” the driver could be charged with assault as a disorderly persons offense or a crime of the fourth degree. The penalties can be enhanced if the driver is intoxicated.
If a driver has one or more children in the car when he or she is suspected of committing DWI, the driver could face charges of endangering the welfare of a child, which is a serious felony.
If you are facing a charge of alleged DWI, you should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable DWI attorney. Our entire law practice at Levow & Associates is committed to representing DWI defendants. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team, contact us online or at (877) 975-3399.
More Blog Posts:
Court Decision Changes Warning Requirements for New Jersey Police Administering Breath Tests to DWI Suspects, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, November 30, 2014
Court Ruling May Make Footage of Traffic Stops Available Earlier in New Jersey DWI Cases, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, November 28, 2014
New Jersey DWI Law Does Not Require Police to Witness Actual Driving, as Arrest of Sleeping Man for DWI Demonstrates, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, October 17, 2014
Photo credit: By WhisperToMe (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.